Joint Research Centre for Chinese language at Massey

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Wellington, May 18, 2017

The development of innovative online Chinese language programmes for learners across the Pacific region is at the heart of a new partnership between Massey University and Beijing Language and Culture University.

A joint research centre in applied linguistics is the first of its kind for language education run jointly by the Chinese government and a New Zealand university.

Among the overseas guests present at the launch held at Te Papa Museum in Wellington yesterday (Thursday, May 18, 2017) were Chinese Ambassador Wang Lutong; Professor Beijing Language and Culture University President Cui Xiliang, Centre for Studies of Chinese as Second Language Director Professor Wang Jianqin, National University of Samoa Faculty of Education English and Applied Linguistics Professor, Dr Emma Kruse Va’ai and Faculty of Arts, Law and Education, University of the South Pacific, Fiji Dean Dr Akanisi Kedrayate-Tabualevu.

Hub of Excellence

It aims to be a hub of excellence for research in the field of innovative digital language education in the Australasian/Pacific region, Massey School of Humanities Head Associate Professor Kerry Taylor said.

“It is the first and only such joint research centre involving Chinese collaboration with an overseas education partner. It will facilitate the research collaboration between the two universities focusing on distance language acquisition of Chinese within digital environments. This centre aims to develop high standards of rich online academic research resources and distance Chinese language teaching materials, which can be accessed and shared by various research and teaching institutions in the Asia-Pacific region,” he said.

From West to Asia

Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley, Pro Vice-Chancellor of Massey’s College of Humanities and Social Sciences, said that the centre represents a shift towards Asia.

“As we, the Western world, move into the 21st century, we are changing our attention from Western Europe to Asia. This is the Asian century. Chinese is “the new world language, and how it is learnt and understood in a more global and digital world is a significant issue,” he said.

Professor Spoonley said that the College of Humanities and Social Sciences is delighted to work with China’s top language university, Beijing Culture and Languages University, to establish this new research centre on the Chinese language.

Online learning

Speaking at the launch, Linguistics expert and international authority on distance language learning Professor Cynthia White outlined her 2016 project, namely, ‘Synchronous Chinese Online Language Teaching (SCOLT).’

It is based on tutorials bringing together one of the trainee Chinese language teachers from BLCU and a Chinese language learner from Massey University in a series of one-to-one online tutorials. She gained Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) Catalyst seeding funding to develop the project with BLCU.

Professor White said that students and tutors reflect on the process after each tutorial, reflections, as well as the recordings of the sessions themselves, become data for investigation of a very under-researched area. A pilot was run at the end of 2016, and a new phase is underway now.

Collaborative activities

Other collaborative activities include the International Conference on the Teaching of Chinese held at Massey’s Auckland campus last August. Jointly organised by Massey and BLCU, it featured Scholars from seven countries, including researchers from prestigious universities such as Harvard University, Peking University, and Griffith University. This year, Massey, BLCU, and Shandong Normal University will jointly organise a similar conference in China this October, expected to be attended by 200 scholars from over 10 countries and regions.

Learning language

Assistant Vice-Chancellor Operations, International and University Registrar Stuart Morris said that intercultural skills and proficiency in foreign languages are increasingly important for the modern graduate in a global environment.

“With growing trade between China and New Zealand, more and more people realise the importance of learning Mandarin. In this regard, multi-lingual students have a real advantage,” he said.

Business graduate Henry Kyle, who studied Chinese language by distance through Massey University, said that learning Mandarin will enable him to pursue his dream of a cross-border career in finance. He is one of several students to talk about his experiences learning Chinese in a Massey University YouTube video that screened during the launch.

Mr Kyle, who graduated from Massey last year with a Bachelor of Business Studies and a minor in Chinese language, won a New Zealand Prime Minister’s Scholarship and is currently study finance for a Master’s degree at Peking University.

He said that online learning at Massey has enabled him to manage everyday life in China and to converse easily. He thinks learning Mandarin is an “under-rated choice in New Zealand.”

“China’s importance in the world is increasing exponentially and Mandarin is arguably the most important second language a Kiwi can learn,” he said.


The picture above shows guests at the launch (from left) Mr Tianshu Dong; Dr Michael Li; Dr Gillian Skyrme; Associate Professor Kerry Taylor (all from Massey University); Professor Zhang Baojun (BLCU); Stuart Morriss and Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley (Massey University); China’s Ambassador Wang Lutong; BLCU President Professor Cui Xiliang; Chinese Embassy Education Consul Chen; BLCU Vice-President Professor Cao Zhiyun; Professor Nie Dan and Professor Jianqin Wang (both BLCU) and (front) Professor Cynthia White (Massey University) with Professor Zheng Yanqun (BLCU).

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